Riebeeck-Kasteel and Riebeeck West: the perfect Cape getaways
If you’re looking for a fabulous day trip out of Cape Town – or a weekend getaway – you can’t beat the historical and quirky sister towns of Riebeeck-Kasteel and Riebeeck West. Not only will you find a range of comfortable accommodation options to suit every taste you will also find a fascinating range of wine farms and tasting opportunities, art galleries, shops and restaurants. Taking a break has really never been easier and more delightful.
One of the oldest towns in South Africa, Riebeeck-Kasteel is situated 80 km north-east of Cape Town in the beautiful Riebeek Valley, together with its sister town, Riebeek West. In 1661, the Commander of the Cape, Jan van Riebeeck, initiated an inland discovery expedition which set off in the direction Paardeberg and eventually came upon the fertile vista of what was to become the Riebeeck Valley. The town eventually developed and today it houses around 3 000 inhabitants including some of South Africa’s most famous artists attracted by the picturesque surroundings of the valley.
For visitors, there is much to intrigue – from history to wine to a variety of top-class eateries and diverse shopping opportunities. Here is just a glimpse of what is on offer:
Offers various types of olive tasting, from sweet, through to garlic and balsamic. The olives can be purchased in small glass jars or 1 kilogram plastic buckets. Various types and blends of the olive strains can be tasted. The service is very friendly and the taste options are mouth-watering.
De Oude Kerk Museum
This old church first opened its doors in 1855. Now a museum, it pays tribute to the Voortrekkers who settled in this valley, and you’ll find plenty of wagons, old farming implements, old-fashioned school desks, hymn books and other antique bric-a-brac. There is also a horse-drawn hearse with a coffin – which is probably why the De Oude Kerk is rumoured to be haunted. Many visitors have reported feeling ghostly cold spots, especially by the old pram displayed in the museum. So it’s not to be missed!
If you love chocolate as much as wine and olives, then you have to pay a visit to the chocolate haven next door to a superb art gallery. At Le Petit Chocolat you’ll find handmade chocolates in every shape, flavour and colour. There are books, a divine chocolate tasting, and a selection of chocolates to die for: coconut truffles and chilli truffles, chocolates infused with Amarula and champagne, peanut clusters and even brightly coloured speckled eggs. There is no reason to leave.
Kloovenberg Wine Estate: This is a family run farm that produces award-winning wines and superb olive products from oils to salad dressings, tapenades to jams, and also beauty products. You can taste and test their olive range at the same time as enjoying a wine tasting.
Riebeeck West is situated about 5 km north of its sister town and offers its own places of interest in a village atmosphere.
The farm dates back to 1704. After a fire destroyed the property, it got its name: ‘All is Lost’. One of South Africa’s prime ministers, D F Malan, was born at Allesverloren and the farm is still owned by the Malan family who produce award-winning wines, including Portuguese varietals. They offer a relaxing tasting room, a fine restaurant, and a play area for children.
Pulpit Rock gets its name from the craggy background known as ‘pulpit’. The estate lies on the slopes of the Kasteelberg Mountain where their impressive maturation cellars have capacities of 1000 tonnes. Their flagship Pulpit Rock range includes: Pulpit Rock Chardonnay 2006, Pulpit Rock Pinotage 2005/6, Pulpit Rock Merlot 2004, Pulpit Rock Shiraz 2004 / 2005, and Pulpit Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2004.
The Short Street Market
The Short Street Market takes place on the last Saturday of every month and has a wide variety of stalls selling fresh country produce and award winning wines from the many local cellars. Enjoy oysters and champagne, homemade bread, preserves, cheeses and locally produced meat while you wander from stall to stall, sampling the delicious local fare.
Morning game drives are available in the 10,000 acre Bartholomeus Klip Hermon Private Nature Reserve. You’ll be on the lookout for eland, springbuck, black wildebeest, zebra and bontebok. And you might also spot baboons, bat-eared foxes and lynxes, and the elusive leopard might also be glimpsed. While there are many animals to see, possibly the most important is the smallest – the endangered geometric tortoise, one of the world’s rarest reptiles. This is its last remaining habitat.
Accommodation is very much shared between the sister towns, and you are spoilt for choice. But there is one hotel that you must at least visit, even if you do not stay. And that is the Royal Hotel, which is the oldest hotel in South Africa. Fabulously renovated and up-to-date, it has retained its old-fashioned charm and aura of history. It has the longest stoep in the country (14 archways) and a 150-year-old bar.
Happy hour on this stoep is a grand tradition – and you can expect the best G&T in town, or anywhere for that matter. While you sip, remember that this hotel has played host to many famous names such as: Jan Smuts, DF Malan and Nelson Mandela. Relaxing here, you will genuinely feel you have been transported back in time, surrounded by colonial memorabilia and the occasional animal head eyeing you in reprimand from the old days of trophy hunting. To add to its attraction, there is a swimming pool, a lounge with a fireplace, and a spa service. Not to mention a very affordable 5-course dinner, should you wish to indulge.
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